Review - Dancing in Twilight

Older auds might be especially susceptible to the low-key charms of "Dancing in Twilight," a handsomely produced indie that received limited local theatrical play after its world premiere at WorldFest in Houston. Trouble is, the jarringly downbeat ending likely will disappoint, if not infuriate, the very ticketbuyers most likely to appreciate a serious drama about a recently widowed businessman struggling to get on with the rest of his life. Cable and homevid beckon.

Character actor Erick Avari brings melancholy gravitas to his dignified portrayal of Indian immigrant Madhav Singh, a successful Houston businessman left devastated by the sudden death of his beloved wife Jaishree (Artee Patel). Haunted by his unexpected loss -- Jaishree kept details of her fatal illness from husband to the every end -- he's scarcely able to do anything but go through the motions of working.

But, while Madhav apparently thinks he still is an attentive father, his son Samir (Kal Penn of "Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle") is upset by what he views as their growing estrangement.

Samir hopes for a reconciliation when he returns home with girlfriend Nicole (Sheetal Sheth) to attend an engagement party for the daughter of family friends. At the get-together, however, Madhav is distracted by April (Mimi Rogers), a long-time acquaintance who'd like to get much closer to the businessman, despite the disapproval of her none-too-enlightened mother (Louise Fletcher). April manages to spark new vigor in Madhav, who in turn tries to be more open with Samir. Ultimately, however, some wounds prove too hard to heal.

Working from script by Rishi Vij -- son of producer Rakesh Vij, a real-life Indian immigrant turned Houston businessman -- TV vet Bob Roe directs with sufficient skill to give talky scenes some semblance of visual variety. Pic overall evidences respect and generates sympathy for the characters -- even Fletcher's borderline-racist mom turns out to be less a villain that she initially seems -- but that makes the final scenes all the more difficult to accept as dramatically sound or emotionally satisfying. Rogers and Penn are standouts in fine supporting cast.

Camera (color), Robert Steadman; editor, Scot Kelly; music, Scott Szabo; production designer, Gary Constable; sound, Mack Melson; assistant director, Courtney Wulfe. Reviewed at Cinemark Westchase Tinseltown, Houston, May 31, 2005. (At WorldFest, Houston.) MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 89 MIN.

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